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Burlington Central's Duncan Ozburn lifts a shot last season. The 6-foot-9 senior returns for the Rockets after averaging 7.1 points and 5.4 rebounds last year. | John Konstantaras~For Sun-Times Media
Good chemistry can go a long way on the basketball court, and Burlington Central might have the right mix to produce a positive chain reaction this season.
The Rockets finished last year’s up-and-down campaign on a high note as they closed the regular season with seven straight wins to capture the Big Northern East title.
Now a deep rotation made up of varsity veterans and capable newcomers looks to continue the upward trend and improve on last year’s 14-14 finish.
“This is probably one of the tightest groups we’ve had since I’ve been here,” fifth-year coach Brett Porto said. “They are really unselfish on both ends of the court. It’s truly a team-first mentality with this group, which is refreshing.”
Seniors Duncan Ozburn (6-foot-9, C), Reed Hunnicutt (5-8, G) and Brett Rau (6-2, G) are all back in the starting lineup. Seniors Jacob Schutta (5-11, G) and James Raney (5-10, G) also return after logging significant minutes as juniors.
Ozburn’s size makes him a focal point, and the three-year varsity member will be counted on heavily after averaging 7.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks last season.
“Duncan’s ability to change shots and rebound, you can’t put a price tag on that defensively,” Porto said. “Offensively he’s really taken a nice jump, and we’re hoping he can continue that through his senior year.”
Porto also expects big things out of senior Sean Fitzgerald (6-1, G), who rarely saw the court last year but will play an integral part after making big gains during the offseason.
Juniors Stefan Jochum (6-0, G), Nathan Moxness (6-2, F) and Drew Wiss (5-9, G) are three newcomers in the mix. A trio of sophomores are also on board as Luke McCurdy (6-1, G), Ryan Fitzgerald (6-4, F) and A.J. Gouriotis (6-1, F) look to make an impact.
Ending a five-year drought without a regional title is among the goals for the Rockets this season. Repeating as conference champ is another main objective, but Genoa-Kingston, Richmond-Burton, Rockford Christian and Marengo all figure to be worthy challengers for the top spot in the BNC East.
“I think it’s going to be a little bit deeper conference this year, and each game is definitely going to be a grind,” Porto said. “If the guys continue working hard and stay unselfish, good things will happen for us.”